The World of DVG's Impromptu Poetry and Dictation

This article is part 19 of 24 in the series DVG Profile by S.R. Ramaswamy

There was no paucity of impromptu poetry in letter correspondence with both close friends and staff of the Gokhale Institute. Once I had put a packet of caramel toffees in the box containing the Institute’s papers that needed DVG’s signature and sent it to him as was the daily practice. The reply was a poem set to the Kanda metre:

You have such compassion on this old man! |
When my teeth got the fortune of savouring the caramel toffee ||
I became happy upon realizing your |
sweet affection O Sondekoppa [i.e. Sondekoppa Ramaswamy] ||

The sentences containing instructions regarding writing, typing and related work would flow forth in the Anushtup metre: “kāpīyatāmidaṃ deva rāmasvāmi dayānidhe” (Please copy this O Lord Ramaswamy, you the treasure-house of compassion) and so on.

In Routine Matters

DVG was able to spot ample opportunities for poetry even in routine matters.

When DVG was the vice president of the Kannada Sahitya Parishad, an assistant named Lakka put forward a request for a hike of five or ten rupees in his salary. In those days, even this slight increase in costs meant a significant burden for the Parishad. The giants in the Working Committee deliberated on the matter and came to the decision that it was impossible to give this hike to Lakka.

DVG wrote this in the notebook:

lakka dhanamiralu keḍuguṃ||
It is ruinous to have lakhs in wealth ||

Note: There is a pun in the Kannada word, “Lakka,” which also means “Lakh.”  


In the advisory team of the Gokhale Institute, Sri D.R. Venkataramanan had a postgraduate degree in Economics. Sri B.S. Subba Rao was a mathematician of the highest order.

Introducing these two gentlemen to Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer who had come to the Gokhale Institute for a lecture, DVG said: “Chill penury repressed their noble rage, Sir!”

(This is a line from the poet Thomas Gray’s famous, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard)


If for some reason (our) meeting didn’t take place on a day, DVG’s response would invariably emerge in the form of a poem. Such notes, satire, and mockery that emanated from him is innumerable.

Once, owing to some reason, I was unable to meet him. The note from him that reached me the next morning comprised about thirty lines set to perfect metre. For example:

The bath of one’s life is the company of another life dear to it
The honey of sacred love is the ambrosia we drink
The day you are pleased to meet is the newness in my life
If you ignore me, the world is a dull stone.

Thus it went, in this vein.


It was the opinion and experience of numerous people that it was difficult to work with DVG. This was the popular opinion about him: ‘A very hard taskmaster.’ The certificate that I frequently received from Masti, V.C. and M.V. Sitaramayya was this: “How are you managing with him for so many years!”

However, I never felt this to be a problem at all. (Perhaps, because even I am a nag and finicky regarding work, our relationship became easy.)

However, in V.C’s words, “Why has God made this man so formidable and adept? Perhaps only to torment us. This is what I sometimes feel.” This sentiment was prevalent from time to time among all friends and those who assisted him.



Taking down dictation from DVG, instead of being a chore, was a joyous experience. Once he began to dictate and ask me to write it down, he would go on for two or three hours, his flow of words unstoppable. The exchequer of his vocabulary relevant to the specific context and subject was an inseparable part of his nature. His extraordinary memory was the greater part. He had the felicity to narrate an incident that occurred more than sixty years ago with specific details as if it had occurred just yesterday. I haven’t come across anybody else who had this sort of memory. If a mention of some book that he had read forty years ago came up, the screen of his mind would summon the topics in that book and the order in which they appeared in it.

Once we needed some line from the Bible. He indicated to me the approximate portion in which that line appeared and asked me to open the book. As I read out random lines here and there, he asked me to look further. Even as he said this, he began to narrate the text and context of these random lines—as if he had kept the book in front of him.

This same degree of suzerainty would flow forth even in the case of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Upanishads.

Then, his method of contemplation and thought was highly systematic. The moment he began to speak, it would entail an experience as if the seed, root, sprout, stem, branch, leaves, flowers…all of these were taking shape in their natural fashion.

Thanks to my long years of association with him, it is nothing special that I have fully imbibed his method of thinking and writing style.

One evening at around six in the evening, as usual, he began to dictate something and asked me to take it down. Accordingly, I went on writing. Presently, G.P. Rajarathnam arrived. DVG said, “Come, come,” and continued dictating so that it could be paused at an appropriate stage. Rajarathnam sat to my left.

After about ten minutes, we stopped the writing work for the day. Then, Rajarathnam said to DVG:

“This is weird. This fellow is already writing the next sentence before you completed the first one.”

DVG laughed and said, “This is how he is…this (hurling an unprintable expletive)!”

DVG would frequently poke fun at me: “After working with me for so many years, you must have become really intelligent, right?”

DVG would always be in a state of elation throughout the time he was giving dictation. And then, in the midst of this work, there was absolutely no paucity for random deviations. Both printable and unprintable sentences would gush forth from his mouth like a torrent.

This sort of experience provided delight to the work of writing instead of making it a burden.

On several occasions, I had to search for and add for a couple of supplementary details to an incident that he narrated. Thrilling experiences occurred even in this regard.

To be continued



Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of stalwarts like D. V. Gundappa, Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma, V Sitaramaiah, and others. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and served as the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs for many years.



Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...